The Pima County Health Department is leading the county’s Ebola preparedness efforts, despite Southern Arizona being identified as at low-risk of having someone diagnosed with the disease.
Dr. Francisco Garcia, director and chief medical officer for the Pima County Health Department, has been in contact with federal, state and local officials about the potential risk in Southern Arizona. In addition, he recently gathered health officials from around the county to discuss and coordinate how health care workers in our community would respond to a suspect Ebola-infected patient. “While the risk of having an Ebola case in our community remains very low, we all recognize the importance of having these conversations before an emergency happens,” said Dr. Garcia.
TMC is aiding in the PCHD’s efforts to create a county-wide response plan that is expected to be released next month. It will include input from public health officials, hospitals, health care providers, first responders and emergency managers who are committed to a coordinated effort to protect the community.
TMC is following all guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and has an updated response plan that ensures the hospital staff detects possible Ebola cases, protects employees, other patients and their families or visitors, and responds appropriately. TMC administration is working diligently with TMC’s Infection Control department, as well as officials at the county, state and federal level.
Here are some of the proactive steps TMC is doing to maximize our preparedness efforts:
Prepare to detect:
All front-line clinical staff members are well educated and well trained; their ability to follow hospital protocol for this situation has been drilled and tested.
All patients are asked the following screening questions:
- Have you traveled to West Africa, including Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal or Sierra Leone within the past 30 days?
- Have you had physical contact with anyone who has been to one of the countries mentioned above within the past 30 days?
- Have you been in physical contact with someone who is suspected of being infected with Ebola, or who has been diagnosed with Ebola?
Any patients who are suspected of being Ebola-infected will immediately be placed in a private room inside the TMC emergency department.
A suspected Ebola-infected patient will stay in that room and assessed for any other symptoms of Ebola until test results come back, which can take an estimated 12 hours.
Protect our employees, patients and their families or visitors:
Health care workers have drilled how to properly put on and take off personal protective equipment, or PPE.
Health care workers use a “buddy system” when caring for patients, and when putting on and removing PPE.
TMC has a 30-day inventory of available PPE suitable for a suspected or confirmed Ebola-infected patient.
Any equipment or other materials that are used on a suspected Ebola-infected patient will be triple bagged in a red biohazard bag, collected and incinerated.
If a patient is diagnosed with Ebola, the patient will be transported to a pre-determined isolation unit that is equipped to care for these patients.
The health and safety of other TMC patients and their visitors will not be in jeopardy while this patient is being transported.
A dedicated team will be assigned to care for only this patient; they will not provide care to any other patients.
The CDC has assured us that it will have a team here on site within 24-hours of any positive diagnosis.
To see more pictures in the Arizona Daily Star of TMC staff during PPE training sessions, please click here.